Understanding the Confession: Robert Rollock’s Select Works
J. V. Fesko
Robert Rollock’s Select Works of Robert Rollock, 2 vols. (reprint; Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008). Hardback. $95.00.
Who in the world is Robert Rollock (1555-59)? Great theologians have the habit of disappearing beneath of tidal wave of time, the avalanche of new books always being published, and the relentless drove of new theologians being minted each generation. Nevertheless, Robert Rollock was an important sixteenth-century Reformed theologian whose writings deserve our attention.
In his day, Rollock, a Scotsman, wrote a number of commentaries on books of the bible including Ephesians, Thessalonians, Daniel, John, Psalms, Romans, and Galatians. So at the core, Rollock was an exegete. But Rollock was also a skilled theologian and is probably best known for his Treatise on Effectual Calling. His work on effectual calling is included in this republication of the nineteenth-century Woodrow Society edition. Rollocks’ treatise is an excellent example of how a sixteenth-century Reformed theologian set forth his soteriology. This was a rich period when the likes of Amandus Polanus (1561-1610), Old Testament professor at the University of Basel, and William Perkins (1558-1602), the famous author of the Golden Chaine and numerous other works were being published.
What makes Rollock’s work beneficial is that it is one of the key works of covenant theology that emerged in the sixteenth-century. Some even argue that Rollock was one of the first to articulate all of the elements of the traditional covenant of works as it would be later expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith. In other words, if one wants to understand the soteriology of the Westminster divines, Rollock provides us with a window into how they constructed their theology. For example, Rollock explains “God speaks nothing to man without the covenant” (1.33). In biblical theological circles, the Bible’s teaching on the covenant is all the rage. Yet Rollock makes this biblical theological point that all of God’s revelation is covenantal. Now this is not to say that everyone will agree with everything that Rollock states; we should always read critically and carefully compare what we find against Scripture.
In addition to Rollock’s treatise on effectual calling this reprint edition has a helpful biographical sketch of Rollock’s life and work. The two volumes also include various letters, prefaces to works, a summary of Rollock’s theology, three sonnets written on the occasion of Rollock’s death, and more than fifty sermons by Rollock. It is this last portion of Rollock’s works that is quite helpful. Often people will read the theological works of a man and then criticize him for his lack of practicality or pastoral concern. This erroneous conclusion can arise because a reader only looks at one portion of a man’s thought. But in this case, not only can one benefit from Rollock’s theological explanations but he can then see how Rollock preached those great truths.
This reprint edition affords the reader to examine the doctrine and practice of one of the key Reformed theologians of the sixteenth-century. If we want to understand better the theology we confess, such as in the Westminster Standards, then Rollock serves as an excellent lamp upon the path.